Sridevi, the south Indian who became Bollywood's Lady Superstar.
Bombay movie industry’s South connection goes back to the fifties with Vyjayanthimala as the first link in the long-standing relationship. Vyjayanthimala is undoubtedly the first South Indian actor to become a national star. The dancing diva made her debut in AVM’s 'Vazhkai' in 1949. Her tryst with Hindi films began a couple of years later in 'Bahaar' (remake of Vazhkai) and she delivered many more box-office hits and critically-acclaimed films that included Bimal Roy’s 'Madhumati', 'Devdas', 'Leader' and 'Amrapali', in which she essayed the historical character of Amrapali, a royal courtesan of Vaishali in the Magadha empire. Her Tamil filmography includes 'Then Nilavu', 'Vanjikottai Valiban' and 'Irumbu Thirai'. A remarkable dancer and performer, Vyjayanthimala is still rated as one of the finest actors to have graced the silver screen.
A contemporary to Vyjayanthimala and a skilled dancer herself, Padmini, the second of the three Travancore sisters, carved a niche for herself. The Trivandrum-born actor made her debut in Hindi film 'Kalpana' in 1948. Her first Tamil film was 'Manamagal' (1950) by N S Krishnan and she starred in 250 films in Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada, taking all languages in her stride in a career that spanned for almost 40 years. Whether it was 'Thillana Mohanambal', 'Velaikaran' and 'Deiva Parvai' in Tamil or 'Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai' and 'Mera Naam Joker' both helmed by the showman of India, Raj Kapoor, Padmini was a rare talent.
She was no stranger to arc lights, even when she was just five. After a successful stint as a child artiste in films like 'Kandhan Karunai' and 'Bharatha Vilas', Sridevi followed it up with an equally illustrious career in the Tamil industry as she graduated to adult roles, with K Balachander’s 'Moondru Mudichu' when she was just 13. Her memorable roles include 'Padhinaru Vayathinilae', 'Johnny' and 'Moondram Pirai'. Making her debut in Hindi films with 'Solva Saawan' in 1978 after initially appearing as a child artiste in Julie, Sridevi established herself as a highly prolific and multilingual actor, with a string of hits like 'Chandni', 'Lamhe' and also made a popular pair opposite Jeetendra.
Seventies could also be called the era of the Southern beauties in Bollywood. Alongside Sridevi was Jaya Prada, known for her demure looks, charming many with her dancing and acting skills. The Rajahmundry-born actor moved from Telugu and Tamil films like 'Ninaithale Inikkum to Bollywood with 'Sargam'. Acting with every top actor of he'r time, she alternated between Telugu and Hindi films, scaling dizzying heights in both the industries. While maintaining a steady flow of projects in all the three languages,the 'Sagara Sangamam' actor also found a fan in ace filmmaker Satyajit Ray, who rated her as one of the most beautiful actors in the Indian film industry.
Following in the footsteps of female stars who set a benchmark, Hema Malini made a mark with a difference. It is said that filmmaker Sridhar rejected a young Hema Malini in the early sixties for his project, saying she had no star appeal. After playing a small role in the Telugu film 'Pandavar Vanavasam' in 1965, she got her big break in 'Sapnon ka Saudagar', in which she was paired with none other than Raj Kapoor, who was double her age. The film garnered enough attention for the accomplished dancer and actor, who went on to earn the title ‘Dream Girl’.
Working with top notch actors and filmmakers in the seventies and eighties, some of her unforgettable projects were 'Johny Mera Naam', 'Seeta Aur Geeta', 'Sholay', 'Khushboo' and 'Kinara' to name a few.
The late sixties introduced another name to Bollywood — a name which is today associated with talent and charm that awed the audience. Rekha was considered to be too dark and plump to portray the heroine and struggled hard to prove her mettle. Debuting as a child actor in 1966 in the Telugu movie 'Rangula Ratnam', she bagged a lead role four years later in 'Sawan Bhadon' (1970).
The success of films that followed, however, failed to secure a position for her in the industry and she was panned for her looks. But a transformed Rekha stunned the audience and critics in the late seventies. Some of them include 'Ghar' and 'Muqaddar Ka Sikander', and eighties belonged to her completely. Her finest performances till today is 'Khubsoorat', 'Umrao Jaan', 'jaazat' and 'Khoon Bhari Maang'. Apart from being rated as a sex symbol and known for her bold roles, Rekha is considered to be a fashion icon.